NEW YORK (AP) — Two al-Qaida members from Yemen befriended an American recruit and helped him join the terrorist group, clearing the way for the New York native to hatch a plot against the Long Island Rail Road, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Saddiq Al-Abbadi and Ali Alvi were detained in Saudi Arabia before being brought to the United States on charges they conspired to kill Americans and provide material support to al-Qaida by fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, prosecutors said. The charges stem from information supplied to investigators by Long Island native Bryant Neil Vinas, who was captured in 2008.
"There is no escape from the reach of our law for violent terrorists, especially if they target our military," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. "Al-Abbadi and Alvi may have operated in the mountains of Afghanistan, but now they face justice in a courtroom in Brooklyn."
Alvi, 30, was to appear Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn. Al-Abbadi, 36, had an appearance Sunday.
The names of their lawyers weren't immediately available.
Prosecutors accused the men of traveling to Pakistan in 2008 to get military training from al-Qaida and fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While staying at a safe house, they met Vinas, court papers say.
The three "became close associates over the course of the next month while they lived together at the safe house," the papers say. The two defendants later introduced Vinas, nicknamed "Ibrahim" or "Bashir al-Ameriki," to senior al-Qaida members who agreed to give him weapons and other training, they say.
Several months later, Vinas encountered Al-Abbadi meeting at a Pakistani mosque with the third-ranking member of al-Qaida, court papers say. He was surprised to see Al-Abbadi because he'd heard Al-Abbadi had been killed fighting against U.S. soldiers in the Afghan province of Ghazni.
Al-Abbadi "confirmed that he had recently been fighting in Ghazni, and stated the fighting in Ghazni was good," the papers say.
Over time, al-Qaida leaders grew to view Vinas as a valuable asset because of his American passport and knowledge of transit systems and other potential targets within the United States, prosecutors say.
At a 2012 trial of a man accused in a thwarted plot against New York City subways, Vinas testified how he suggested to others in al-Qaida in the summer of 2008 that they could plant explosives in a suitcase aboard a Long Island Rail Road train or hide them inside a television that was being returned to a Wal-Mart.
An attack on the popular retail outlet "would cause a very big economy hit," he said. The attacks were never attempted.
After his capture, Vinas was brought to federal court in Brooklyn, where he pleaded guilty in 2009 and agreed to testify against terror defendants in U.S. cases.
There's been no sentencing date set for Vinas as he continues to cooperate.